At some point in the mid-2000s, I was in a Chapters perusing the music magazine racks while my wife was looking at cookbooks and I came across an American-based indie music magazine called “Under the radar”. I found myself flipping through it slower than I normally would a music magazine so when my wife found me (rather than me finding her for once), I was still only halfway through it. She suggested I buy it and I offered no resistance. And then, I bought the next few monthly issues. For the next Christmas that rolled around, I received a two year subscription from Victoria. When that expired, I called in to renew it for myself and I distinctly remember the woman I talked to who took my order happily telling me that they (the people behind the magazine) loved Canadians. I have since had a few annual digital subscriptions for my iPad and these days, I still check their website regularly and all because they have always seemed to have their finger on the pulse of music that I like.
This past January, a month that the music world is still typically waking up from its holiday hangover, I had a visit with my friends at “Under the radar” and wouldn’t you know, there was a review, front and centre, of the self-titled, debut album of this new Canadian band, Tallies. The review mentioned them in the same breath as Alvvays, another favourite of mine, and a couple other Canadian bands of whom I hadn’t yet heard. So I duly went over to Spotify to have a perusal of the album (as well as music by the other two) and immediately heard and agreed with the reviewer’s comparisons to the jangly dream pop of Cocteau Twins and (especially that of) The Sundays. It goes with saying that I purchased it on vinyl the next time I was out at the record stores.
I tell this story because I find it funny, the roundabout way you sometimes have to travel to discover music from your own backyard. Tallies were formed by the couple of Sarah Cogan (vocals/guitar) and Dylan Frankland (guitar) while they were attending Algonquin College right here in Ottawa. They added drummer Cian O’Neill and bassist Stephen Pitman and relocated to Toronto, where they recorded this debut. And yeah, “Tallies” is another good reason why we should still be excited about the indie music being made here in Canada.
Tallies have been described as shoegaze but I would place them more as dream pop, and yes, there is a difference. There’s plenty of jangle and twinkle and rays of sunshine, and man, is it easy on the ears! Have a listen to my three picks for you below and let me know what you think.
“Not so proud”: First off, I’ll drop this one right here and let that peppy, tip-tappety-tap-tap drumming set in. I’m thinking within a second your head will be bopping. Just in time to let the washes upon washes of tinkling guitars flutter down upon you like sparkling confetti. The crisp production is like a vacuum, allowing these lovely sounds to echo all over the place and then, Cogan starts in with her vocals. She’s singing about uncertainties and the different shades of greys and not having the answers or the endings to any story, happy or otherwise. Yet, you can’t help but want to get up and dance and sing along just as breathlessly.
“Mother”: The rhythm section gets a bit of a workout on this second track and guitars jangle all over the place, almost feeling like they’re on holiday in the Caribbean. Yeah, things are a bit meandering in the verses but they pick up substantially at the choruses and the drums get just that much more frantic. And through the joy and bliss and Cogan’s sweet honey vocals, her lyrics are wistfully relaying the varying stages of a relationship between a mother and daughter. “Don’t fill your holes with sorrow, ‘cause you’ll never be left alive.” Good advice, that.
“Trouble”: And much like that last track (and others throughout the album), the opening number seems to be exploring the pitfalls of growing up, ready or not. “Heights with no means to escape. Soaring coasts mixed with the rubble. Mind’s eye forms fields of gray. No subtle fears, no grounds for trouble.” And here more than anywhere, do we get a lot of noise, a lot of static, impenetrable, perhaps, save for the soaring and ringing vocals of Cogan, sounding very much a Harriet Wheeler doppelgänger. The naivety and exuberance breathes life into an interpretation of backward admiring tunes. Just lovely.
Check back next Tuesday for album #2. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:
10. Chromatics “Closer to grey”
9. Elva “Winter sun”
8. The Twilight Sun “It won/t be like this all the time”
7. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds “Ghosteen”
6. The Soft Calvary “The Soft Calvary”
5. Orville Peck “Pony”
4. Ride “This is not a safe place”
You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.